Beef up and be herd!

Crofting and having an active Mini Crofter means a lot of time is spent outside. Under the current situation of having a soon to be Micro Crofter, that means feeling puddled in the evenings. Yes, this is when I often turn to news outlets, social media and the like when I’m not looking to engage brain in the next ‘research project’ (ie, what do I want to know about now: sugar levels in grasses, the life of worms, VAT and booking keeping, to more recently quality meat Scotland information). And with that it was not hard to miss the new ‘research’ that red meat should be taxed.

I am amazed at the way media outlets phrase wording. At least a reasonable amount of people seem to read articles with a critical eye (not that they think there may be anything wrong but to approach these information points knowing that the view of the journalist, or who they think their target audience is, affects how and what is written). However, it also appears that a lot of readers don’t bother with detail, quite happy for general comments to affect their sway and can’t see any reason why researchers would need to disclose affiliations. Yes, I am of the opinion that research into red meat will be affected by a person’s vegan belief. These types of articles that label ‘red meat’ as everything, when the research defined processed foods will have a huge impact, not just on people’s diet (I’m more than happy promote people to take on a balanced diet), but to those of us who caretake livestock, abattoirs, butchers and consumers. We as a nation will be impacted in several ways.

Now, I am not normally a ‘political campaigner’ or some type of ‘activist’. But the situation around the red meat tax did make me decide to be more outspoken to raise several points about red meat that seems to be getting missed.

While pregnant with the Mini Crofter, a blood test showed my iron levels had dropped to below standard. I increased my red meat intake. This was done with the understanding we (the GO and I) would therefore monitor it and reassess if required. The side effect of iron tablets was something I wanted to avoid. Having the opportunity to eat a natural source of iron (steaks, diced, roasts) meant I didn’t have to go near heavily proceeded foods or tablets made in a factory. Through diet (odd way to say increasing red meat), my iron levels were maintained. Would I have taken iron tablets if this hadn’t been the case? Yes, I do realise that sometimes we need to turn to prescriptions (so don’t take this as any argument whatsoever to stop prescribed medication). However, the health benefit of the situation doesn’t seem to have been heard of by the many news outlets who published articles about the red meat tax lobby. And if red meat is taxed/banned then the natural source option will be removed.

The likelihood seems that if we as crofters, the caretakers of cattle and sheep, as well as smallholders, farmers, and independent butchers stay quiet, we may all be out of jobs in the near future. Supermarkets have already taken over some slaughterhouses so that no private work can be done. This increases the travelling required of live animals. So yes, buying meat from a supermarket may be ‘easier’, but where has it come from, and by supporting supermarkets, what impact are you having on smaller businesses (not hard to be smaller than a supermarket), animal welfare, local produce and even as a nation?

As Brexit approaches and the potential of meat to come in from countries with very different standards to our current system, how do we uphold those putting the animal first and providing quality meat, to those who want quick, cheap meat (or even fake meat that can ‘bleed’ or replacement ‘meat’ that has twenty-odd ingredients from all kinds of different countries)?

So what do we need to do? Speak up and be heard. Not just as small collective groups, but join voices to help get the information out to consumers, ensure politicians have the education to know how to fight for us (yes, some politicians seem to know where their food comes from and how it impacts on people while others seem to be clueless) and support those who use and work the land to name a few.

An animal rights campaigner may send me messages telling me I’m being cruel keeping my cattle inside in winter. But I’m currently sat inside a house (aka, confinement) with artificial light and other ‘non natural’ things about me that I wouldn’t have if I was living in the woods. Do I need ‘released’ into the wild, to be set free? No, I would much rather be in a house thank you. Just like when the weather turns and our cows seek shelter, so we provide it. We have a polytunnel to help grow fruit and veg. That’s putting our plants through an unnatural setting, I’m forcing them to grow faster by sheltering from elements of the Scottish Highlands. Between the veg garden, polytunnel, soft fruit area, orchard, grass, and thus cows and sheep, we can be somewhat self sufficient. Manure helps our veg produce food as the plants we grow take out nutrients each year from the soil. Eliminate the cows and what could be done on our croft? I can’t live off of grass and trees. Nor can my garden keep providing me with vegetables when nutrients in the soil haven’t been replaced. But the issue is there, if we don’t speak up, we may hand over all farming and butchery to the ‘big guns’ to ensure supermarkets can provide their own supplies. Or, livestock are eliminated and the land will lie dormant. Our ability to be self sufficient would reduce as I have to turn to non local supplies. Not a potential I want for the Mini Crofter and the Micro Crofter. So time to start campaigning, beef up and be herd!

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